dell chromebook 11 lid march 2014Image: Michael Homnick
Business Hardware

Chromebook sales explode in the workplace

Tablets may be all the rage, but there's a significant turf war brewing in the U.S. PC market. Between January and May, Chromebook sales to U.S. businesses and other large institutions rose by more than 250 percent compared to the same time last year, according to a new report from market research firm NPD Group.

That metric by itself doesn't mean much, since 250 percent growth tells you little if you only sold a few hundred Chromebooks the year before. But get a load of this: Chromebooks accounted for 35 percent of all commercial laptop sales in the U.S. between January and May, according to NPD. Windows notebooks, meanwhile, remained flat.

Chromebooks may be essentially running a browser in the form of Chrome OS, but Google has steadily turned its PC platform into a more traditional PC. Over the years, Chrome OS has received a desktop-like interface, a taskbar called the shelf, offline support for some apps, and packaged apps that look and feel like standalone desktop apps.

Google has also extended these capabilities to Chrome on other platforms. This allows users, especially Windows users, to sample Chrome OS in a familiar environment before committing to a Chromebook.

While NPD's report focused on commercial buyers there are also signs that everyday consumers are also jumping on the Chromebook bandwagon. Dell recently had to stop sales of its Chromebook 11 due to strong demand.

Chromebooks aside, the rest of the U.S. commercial PC market also got a positive boost. Windows desktop sales were up 24 percent as Windows XP reached its end of life, which also coincided with a regular replacement cycle for business client devices. The replacement cycle was so big that Windows desktops sales were actually bigger in the enterprise world than notebooks were, NPD said.

As for the future, Google's Chromebooks may have the upper hand with notebooks. But cheaply-priced "Chromebook killers" are on their way from Microsoft and its partners including the $199 Hewlett-Packard Stream as well as $250 laptops from Acer and Toshiba.

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